Issa, Warner say IT modernization fund sorely needed

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Lawmakers from both parties and both chambers expressed support Thursday for legislation that would create a $3.1 billion IT modernization fund to pay for agencies replacing outdated legacy technology.

Both Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Darrell Issa told an event held by the Data Coalition, an open data advocacy group, that the bill was sorely needed to help agencies improve their cybersecurity and rein in the billions spent on maintaining legacy IT systems.

Issa, R-Calif., said he is in favor of the bill as long as Congress is shown how agencies will replenish the fund once they stand up new infrastructure.

“We’re working with the appropriators on both sides to get them to understand that as long as there are safeguards, and to make sure that GAO has looked at this and said ‘we can see the payback.’ We need to have that kind of capability,” Issa said. 

“In our business lives, you usually have to go to the CFO or CEO with this kind of a thing, but you didn’t come away with something that had an 18-month or two- or three-year payback. That’s one of the areas that is the only way to tackle products running on a DEC Alpha,” a reference to computers built in the early 90s.

The safeguards were also brought up in a Wednesday hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, when Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., told Federal CIO Tony Scott the Office of Management and Budget must lay out a roadmap for how that fund makes agencies more efficient.

“It is counterintuitive that we would actually need to add more money and I think you can sell that plan to Congress if you can demonstrate ‘here will be the payoff, here’s the return on that investment,’” Connolly said Wednesday.

The White House believes the one time $3.1 billion budget outlay could address at least $12 billion in modernization projects over 10 years, because savings from each project would be churned back into the fund to pay for later initiatives.

Warner said the fund makes an “enormous amount of sense,” given how dire agencies’ cybersecurity posture is when it comes to legacy systems.

“In this area, where we cobble patches upon patches upon patches, it’s not only fiscally stupid but as we’ve seen and those who are victims of the OPM breach [know], we are talking about a huge vulnerability in terms of cyber with every time you layer another patch on, you layer another potential problem on.”

The bill now carries 20 co-sponsors, with Issa included among them.

Contact the reporter on this story via email at greg.otto@fedscoop.com, or follow him on Twitter at @gregotto. His OTR and PGP info can be found hereSubscribe to the Daily Scoop for stories like this in your inbox every morning by signing up here: fdscp.com/sign-me-on.

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Congress, Darrell Issa, Government IT News, IT Modernization Fund, John Warner
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